HomeBrowseAdvanced SearchAboutHelpContact

Chime of Bells and Music at Grace Church, Providence, Rhode Island, 1857-1987

Historical note

In 1861 Bishop Thomas March Clark, rector from 1852-1903, Grace Episcopal Church in Providence, Rhode Island sought to raise by subscription $6000 to purchase a chimes of bells to be installed in the newly constructed tower on the church. The bells were cast by Henry N. Hooper and Company. The original 16 bells were first rung on Easter Sunday March 31, 1861. Each of the bells holds an inscription bearing the donor's name. Two of the bells are worth noting: The A sharp and the F sharp. The first subscription for the bells was made by Providence First Light Infantry Company in which the Bishop Clark had served as chaplain. The Company purchased the A sharp with the condition that it be rung every September 10th in perpetuity to commemorate the memory of Oliver Hazard Perry's victory in the Battle of Lake Erie on Sept 10, 1813. The F sharp bell was purchased by John Carter Brown, class of 1816, on behalf Brown University under the proviso that it be rung on the morning and afternoon of the university's commencement day. Both practices were sporadically observed over the years and are presently discontinued.

The largest of the bells weighs 3,520 pounds and the smallest weighs 350 pounds. Originally, the chimes are played from a clavier in a room below the bells. The clavier consists of 16 counterweighted wooden levers which the bell ringer grasps and thrusts down. This quick snapping motion pulls a cable activating a spring which caused a clapper to strike the bell. The bells are stationery and do not swing. In 1940 nine of the bells were recast and the rest retuned thanks to a gift from Miss Rosa Anne Grosvenor in memory of her father and mother Dr. William and Rosa Anne Grosvenor. The work was done by Meneely Bell Company of Troy, New York. In 1971 the chime of bells was electrified at a cost of about $13,000 by the I. T. Veridin Co. of Cincinnati Ohio. As a result the chime of bells are now played by the organist from a keyboard and not from the clavier.

A set of Westminster Chimes were installed in 1929 and are rung every quarter hour. These were a gift of Mr. And Mrs. Charles Sission in memory of their son, Russell. This set of chimes are operated electronically and were first used Easter Sunday, March 31st 1929.

Vincent Cherico, bellringer for approximately ten years, donated the material in this collection to the University of Rhode Island Special Collections in December, 2001. Mr. Cherico began his apprenticeship in 1983 at the age of 19, under Dorothy Rice who was a bellringer from 1946 until just shortly before her death in 1989. She in turn learned her art from Mrs. Marion Pickles who had played the chimes for forty years before Miss Rice began her apprenticeship.